PittsburghMom

PittsburghMom is our original, featured blog by Heather Starr Fiedler.  Heather created PittsburghMom in March 2008 and began this journey.  Heather is the mom to two young boys, Matthew (9) and Benjamin (7), a college professor and General Manager of PittsburghMom. She's busy, but not too busy to blog about her sometimes serious, sometimes painful and often humorous thoughts on life and share her favorite Pittsburgh spots for families.

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Teaching the unteachable

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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My son finally learned how to tie his shoes this week. Sort of. But I'm calling it.

He's eight. 

I know, I know. He should have learned that a long time ago, and I agree. But the boy is stubborn. And rather unteachable. Does anyone else have a kid who refuses to let you teach them anything.

I typically get "I don't need to learn that" or "I already know that". And we both know neither of those is generally true, but he doesn't back down.

So after years of trying to get him to let us to teach him to tie is shoes, I finally asked on a good day and had about 10 minutes of his attention before he declared himself "schooled" and refused, once again, to let me help any further.

It's not just the shoes. He's like this with other things as well. But it's only at home (thankfully). As far as I know,he's never refused to let a teacher help him.

I think it's a combination of being too proud to ask for help and a fiercely independent streak. He wants to learn things on his own, he doesn't not want to have to rely on anyone to help him. This carries over to all aspects of his life.  If we're playing basketball and I give him a tip he scoffs and tells me he already knows everything. He doesn't want to take swimming lessons because "he already knows how to swim". And god forbid I try to help him with his homework.

Right now we can usually just let him have his stubborn way, but I worry about the future, especially of homework. He is able to do it all on his own now but some day he WILL need our help and he's going to have to learn to accept it. 

I'm just not sure how to convince him of that.

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Operation organization

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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Last night I had a nightmare.

It was about my junk drawer.

Or should I saw junk drawers, plural.

I think it's time to admit my unorganized house is stressing me out.  I used to be a neat person. I used to be organized. I even crave organization.

But then I had kids. And a job. And PittsburghMom. And I started a nonprofit. And a running club. And.... and.....

People often jokingly ask me "what don't you do?" and I always respond with "I don't do windows".  But the God's honest truth is that I've totally lost track of organizing my house.  I know where things are, but they're shoved into bookshelves, drawers and closets with no real organizations. I can usually identify *which* closet, but no single drawer or closet in my house is neat at this point.

And I'm mortified about it. As evidenced my by dream last night.

But with approximately 15 closets and 30 drawers in this house, not to mention spaces like the playroom, basement and garage, I'm paralyzed with fear when I think about where to start.

So in my tossing and turning last night I came up with a plan.  I'd make a list of every single space that needs to be organized, everything from drawers to bookshelves to closets, and then try to tackle at least one space per week.  Some are small and some are big weekend projects.  It'll take me an entire  year, but if i can manage to KEEP them organized then maybe, just maybe, I can reclaim some of my former self.  And I won't need to buy 16 bottles of shampoo because I'm not sure if we have one somewhere in the back of the closet.

Now I just need to find time to work on that list of spaces...

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Pittsburgh's best indoor family activities

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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I like winter as much as the next person (which is not all that much), but all of the things I love about winter like snow tubing, sledding and building snowmen, have been taken away from us by these frigid temperatures. We're not a family that likes to stay in the house all the time, so we've been working to find fun things to do while still staying warm. I've compiled some of our favorites to share with you here.

Visit a Museum

After taking a long road trip through more than a dozen states this summer, I can say with confidence that Pittsburgh has one of the best collections of family-friendly museums in the country.  The Pittsburgh Children's Museum in the North Side, is perfect for families with young children. If you haven't been in a while (or never), now is the perfect time to rediscover the magic. From art to cars to water, there's enough here to keep the kiddos entertained for at least a day.  

The Carnegie Science Center is one of our personal favorites. We've been taking the kids since they were three or four. Even if kids are too young to understand the science, they will still enjoy the plethora of hands-on activities. As they age, they will grow into the understanding of all of those "toys".  It's fun for the whole family.

If you've got kids that are interested in history or dinosaurs, The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History really give visitors the most bang for their buck.  One admission fee gets you into both museums. The Natural History Museum is famous for its awe-inspiring dinosaur exhibits as well as other favorites like gem and polar worlds.  While you're there, don't be afraid to take your kids to the Museum of Art. I was terrified my kids would touch something and avoided the museum for years. When we did finally attempt it this year we were all pleasantly surprised. They give the kids art activities and the whole family can listen to audio guides to learn more about the paintings. It was really the highlight of our day.

Children's Museum Admission is $14 for adults and $13 for kids

Carnegie Science Center Admission is $19 for adults and $12 for kids
Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History Admission is $18 for adults and $12 for kids

Feed the Birds

Winter is a great time to pay a visit to the penguins at the National Aviary.  Tucked away almost too quietly on the North Side, the Aviary underwent a multi-million dollar expansion just a couple of years ago.  Whether you're interested in penguins, tropical birds or birds of prey, they have it all.  We especially enjoy the bird shows in the new FliteZone theater and the daily bird feedings.  The Aviary is open daily 10-5. 

National Aviary Admission is $14 for adults and $12 for kids

 

 

Take a Bike Ride

If your kids are like mine, they spend countless hours in the summer riding their bikes. They are going through bike-riding withdrawal over the winter months.  Luckily for us, if we're feeling a little adventurous, we can rectify that. Pittsburgh's' very first indoor bicycle skate park, The Wheel Mill, opened last year.  The Wheel Mill, located just off of Washington Boulevard in Homewood, offers ramps of all shapes and sizes for every level rider. Kids and adults can rent bikes or just bring their own bikes and pay a fee to ride for the day.  Sounds like fun!

Weekend passes for all-day riding are $26 for adults and $17-22 (depending on age) for kids.  bike rentals extra. Weekday pricing is lower
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Go for a Swim

Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of getting away from the cold is hopping on a plane to somewhere closer to the equator.  Unfortunately that's not usually possible, so we'll have to make due here in the Burgh.  Nothing feels more like summer than putting on my itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini (ok, who are we kidding, it's more like a respectable tankini with full skirt). There are actually several options available to the public to take a dip in a warm pool during the winter months without having a gym membership. 

The Upper St. Clair Athletic Club has a wonderful indoor pool, complete with lazy river and play structure. It's open to the public with a daily entry fee of $12.

The Carnegie Athletic Club of Homestead has an indoor pool and offers day passes for just $10 for an individual or $15 for a family of 4 for the day.

The Kingsley Assocation on Frankstown Avenue opens its pool to the public every day but Sunday for a daily entry fee of just $5.

Olympic Swim and Health Club, located 20 minutes east of the city, offers public passes for its indoor pool for a $5 guest fee

The historic Oliver Bath House is the best bargain in town, offering a daily swim pass for just $3 for kids and $4 for adults. The Bath House is located in the South Side of Pittsburgh.

Play with Toys

If you're in the mood for a little drive and want to see something really cool, head on up to Butler to visit Playthings, Etc.  Billed by locals as the “coolest toy store in the world”, this Butler, PA toy store is shaped like a stealth bomber which just makes you want to go in and explore. Playthings has an inventory of over 3,000 toys ranging from RC cars to toddler toys. Employees will often give demonstrations of fun toys like pogo sticks and rocket ships. Even if you just go look and play with the samples, it's a fun road trip. Playthings, Etc. is located at 2483 William Flinn Hwy, Butler, PA 16001.  They are open from 10-8 on Saturday.  Closed Sunday


E2 Toys2Try, located in Bridgeville, is another fun toy store/playplace for the younger set.  You can shop for unique and specialty toys while enjoying complimentary coffee, tea and wifi while the kids play in the indoor/outdoor playground.  They are open 10-5 Tuesday-Thursday and 10-4 on Saturdays (call ahead to check playground hours). The playground cost $8 for the first child and $6 for additional children.

 

Get Your Game On

The Robert Morris University Island Sports Center is a 32 acre state of the art sports and recreation center on Neville Island. With indoor ice skating and golf dome, there's something for the whole family.  When the weather breaks, families can take the fun outside for mini golf.

Ice skating is also available at several local Bladerunners locations (Bethel Park, Harmarville and Warrendale). All locations have a public skate session at least twice a week.  Public skate pricing is generaly $6 for adults and $5 for kids (skate rental is an additional $3)

You can also find a couple of indoor glow in the dark mini golf courses in the region. The Pittsburgh Mills mall is home to Shot in the Dark Indoor Mini Golf.  It's also worth a trip out to Monroeville to visit Monster Mini Golf Shot in the Dark will cost you $7 for adults and $6 or 5 for kids (depending on age).  A round of 18 holes at Monster Mini Golf is $9 for adults and $8 for kids.  


If you're more the tennis type, check out the Citiparks Mellon Tennis Center on 5th Avenue.  The bubble allows the public to book court time, but also offer drop in lessons for kids and adults. It's a great way to spend a Saturday morning.  
Kids 1-hour lessons are $10, adults are $12.  

Climb a Wall

What better way to stop climbing the walls than to start climbing walls!? The Climbing Wall, located on Penn Avenue,  offers 14,000 square feet of rock climbing for the whole family (age 6 and up).  
The Climbing Wall is open on the weekends from 10-6 (weekdays until as late as 11). Day passes cost $12 for adults and $10 for kids

Climb North is located inside Jewarts Gymnastics in the North Hills by North Park. Dubbed the "little wall", Climb North offers 5,000 square feet of climbing space. 
Climb North is open on the Saturdays from 11-5 and Sundays from 11-4 . A day pass cost $15 for adults and $10 for kids.

 

Roll with the Punches

When is the last time you went roller skating?  Yea, I don't remember either. But I know I skated with a cute boy to the couples skate and fell on my butt clapping too excitedly during one special song..."Private Eyes (clap) are Watching You (clap clap)"

Romp-n-Roll is a fun throwback roller rink in Gibsonia that offers both traditional and inline skate rental. They offer public sessions every weekend and it's great fun for the whole family.  The DJ is especially fun (and looks like he's straight out of 1954).  They even host Roller Derby matches there each month.  
Public Skate admission is $6 plus skate rental.

Neville Roller Drome is another classic roller rink offering public sessions including Saturday and Sunday family skate sessions from 2-5 p.m. for just $5.50 plus $3 skate rental.

 

Bowl 'em Over

Everyone loves to bowl, don't they? It's a great indoor winter activity for the entire family.  There are many bowling alleys in the Pittsburgh region. I'll share a few with you.  Fun Fest in Harmar is your standard bowling alley/arcade/laser tag fun center that is a huge hit with the kids. What we like about it is the availability of coupons. Never go to Fun Fest without a coupon!  They are always available on their website.  They have daily specials that often include unlimited bowling and laser tag for 2 hours for $10 (Monday evenings) or family specials like 2 hours of bowling, shoes, pizza and pop for 6 people for $40. (Mon-Thurs).  

Other bowling lanes in Pittsburgh include Arsenal Lanes in Lawrenceville, Forward Lanes in Squirrel Hill, Pines Plaza Lanes in the North Hills, Legacy Lanes in Baldwin, Noble Manor Lanes in Greentree, Mt. Lebanon Lanes in Mt. Lebo and Nesbits' Lanes in Plum Boro.

Build a Lego Masterpiece


Everyone love to build with Legos, right?  Thanks to Snapology, everyone has the chance to build their own Lego masterpiece each week during Lego Lab open play in their newly opened Discovery Center in the South Hills.  Snapology offers classes, camps and workshops at both the South Hills Discovery Center or their Monroeville Mall location. Or you can simply visit the Discovery Center every weekend from 12-5 and play for just $5 per hour.  It's a great way to spend a cold weekend afternoon.

 

Make Art

There are several options for making and painting pottery in the Pittsburgh region. Color Me Mine in Squirrel Hill has been around for years and offers kids and adults to join together in the making of a masterpiece.  Katie's Clay Studio on Route 8 in Gibsonia opened just a few years ago and also offers kids and adults the opportunity to paint a piece of pottery to take home. 

Our personal favorite art studio in the area is Little House Big Art. We love it because you can not only paint pottery, but also make your own buttons, make shrinky dinks, paint wooden pets, picture frames, make melty bead masterpieces, make jewelry and paint a variety of other items. They also have supplies for just about every other art project you could imagine, and friendly staff to help inspire and guide you through your ideas. And everything is extremely reasonably priced, so you won't go broke making your masterpiece.
Little House Big Art is located on the North Side and is open Saturday 11-8 and Saturday 1-7.

 

Whatever option you choose, I wish you warm thoughts and safe travels.

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Saying goodbye to a beloved pet

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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We lost our cat Parker yesterday.  He was a much-loved part of our family and saying goodbye was hard on all of us.  

Mike and I got Parker when he was just a tiny little kitten, over 15 years ago, right around this time of year in fact.  He was always more than just a typical cat. He was the friendliest, most social cat I've ever seen. He loved people and wanted to be pet all the time.  I wasn't a cat person before I got Parker, but he convinced me that cats aren't that bad ;)

When the kids were born he was curious but gentle and as they grew up he patiently accepted them pulling his tail, carrying him around the house like a sack of flour and dressing him up. 

He was the first pet my children ever knew.

Earlier this year he started throwing up a lot and losing a lot of weight. I knew I needed to take him to the vet but avoided it for fear that she'd tell me something was really wrong with him. I think I knew it in my heart. He was 15 after all.

I finally took him to the vet last Monday and she confirmed my fears. He had a huge mass in his stomach that was causing him to throw up and not digest his food, hence the weight loss. He was down to almost half his adult weight.  She told me it was likely lymphoma and there wasn't much that could be done.

We debated just having the vet take him that day and telling the kids he went to live on a farm (that's what my husband's parents told him when a pet died), but I argued that my children need to understand both love and loss and, while it's very hard, it's good for them to process it and know what was really happening.  So we took him home and decided to spend a week loving him as much as we possibly could.  We showered him with kisses and cuddles  We made ornaments with his paw and took lots of pictures to remember him.

The boys both reacted very differently, which doesn't surprise me. Matthew locked himself in his room and just cried and cried.  Ben was overly curious about how he would die and exactly when. He spent a lot of time alone with Parker just kissing his head and talking to him.  They both had time to say their goodbyes before we took him back to the vet yesterday.

It was hard on all of us. He was my first pet that I owned by myself as an adult and he was with us through our wedding, two houses and the birth of both kids. He was most definitely a part of this family and will be missed tremendously.

Hug your pets today and give them an extra treat for me.

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Gifts for everyone

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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I'm curious to know how holidays work in your house. Does everyone get gifts? Or just the kids?  In our house, everyone gets gifts.  My husband buys me gifts and my children each buy me a gift. Same for my husband and each of the kids.  We started this tradition when they were born and have not wavered. 

I want to teach my kids that giving is even better than receiving. I want them to save their money to buy gifts they can be proud of. I want them to see their father giving their mother a gift on Christmas.  I want them to grow up and give their wives and future children thoughtful gifts.  

My kids need to know that they are not the only people in the world, or even in this house.  I often hear moms say "we don't have much money so we spend what we do have on the kids".  Whether we have $50 or $500 to spend, I don't believe in spending it all on them.  I believe that everyone gets to feel special and open a gift. I need them to see that.

Luckily my husband agrees and is a wonderful gift giver. As I said, it's not at all about the money. For example, last year he was away on my birthday.  He actually took the time to buy five small gifts (each less than $10, like a pair of fuzzy socks and some chocolates) and wrap them and hide them throughout the house.  Each morning he sent me an email with a picture attached of where to find that day's gift.  The boys helped him with the shopping, wrapping and hiding. They were so excited for me to get my gift each day while daddy was gone.  It was the most wonderful thing and I felt so special.  The total cost was very minimal, but it was priceless to me.

This year I had the boys save their allowance money to buy each other a gift and to buy myself and my husband each a gift. In years past we've taken them to Five Below and let them pick a gift for each other that we've paid for. This year, however, they are both very excited about saving for each other. And instead of saving $5 like I'd expected, they have picked the top item from each other's lists and are trying to save that much ($30) to surprise each other. I'm thrilled.  

I really want them to grow up and be thoughtful gift givers. I think it's one of the best qualities someone can have. It shows listening, respect and caring and I want to instill that in them now.

I asked Ben last night which he likes better, giving gifts or receiving gifts. He answered "Giving gifts, because it's so nice to make other people happy".  And that, my friends, makes ME happy.

 

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